There’s a lot of stupid government regulation when it comes to the airline industry, and for that reason, it’s important to choose your battles. I frankly cannot understand why the airlines continue to push for the Transparent Airfares Act, which would repeal the full fare advertising rule. This is not a winning battle. Fighting possibly-illegal government over-taxation? That’s worth focusing on.
The Transparent Airfares Act is an attempt by the industry to repeal the DOT rules that require advertising to include all taxes and fees. Keep in mind that advertising isn’t just as you think about it; it also includes fares as displayed when booking on websites. Do I think the original DOT rule is stupid? Yes, I do. But do I think trying to repeal it is the right plan? No.
It’s done. The ship has sailed. I agree that it makes little sense that airlines have to include taxes in the advertised price when virtually no other industry has to do it. I mean, hotels don’t even have to include the mandatory, bullcrap resort fee in the advertised price. If the government wants to focus on righting a wrong, look over there… or at rental cars. But the DOT likes to act like the hero and that’s how we end up with airlines being treated differently.
All that being said, it’s not worth trying to repeal this. Travelers don’t care about the rationale. All they know is that this sounds like the airline industry is trying to hide the total price and they don’t like it. The airlines say that this rule allows the government to hide taxes and fees, and they have a point to an extent. But they can still break things out. Spirit does this well today:
Even though you can argue the merits of breaking out taxes and fees even further, trying to repeal this looks very consumer-unfriendly. The airlines have put enough into this that the House actually passed the bill. It sounds like it may very well die in the Senate, so… what’s the point again?
The bottom line is this. There is too much taxation on airline tickets, but this bill isn’t going to fix anything. Airlines can continue to shine a light on over-taxation even under the rule today, and they should. In fact, I think Spirit should change its fare display to look like this.
Do that, and then focus on fighting the real problems here. I applaud the announcement last week that industry groups are suing the federal government over the recent TSA security fee increase.
For those who don’t know, the TSA more than doubled the security fee for people traveling on nonstop itineraries. It’s now a flat $5.60 one way. I’m sure there will be those of you saying that we need to pay for security so this seems fair. One problem… this isn’t all paying for security. A third of it is going directly to reducing the federal deficit.
It’s can also be more than $5.60 one way even though that’s not what the original intention was. They created an arbitrary cut off saying that after a 12 hour stop on an international itinerary, you’ll no longer be considered on a connection (the industry generally considers 24 hours to be the cutoff). So you’ll get charged. There’s also the issue of whether the fee can be charged to people who originate outside the US and have domestic flights on their ticket. The lawsuit says it’s not allowed.
While I don’t know the legal arguments here, I like seeing this kind of fight. This government fee simply increases the cost of flying with no good justification behind it. Fight for this and it looks like the industry is fighting for the customer. That’s not how it looks when the industry pitches something like the Transparent Airfares Act. It’s time to let that one go.